It’s coming to that time of the year again where players will come and go. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for Arbroath, I still have another year on my contract so they are stuck with me for another year at least. For those not so lucky, it can be a strenuous time for part time footballers who need to secure a team for next season. Many I know have had to deal with the term, “Sorry – nae budget” only for the same team to sign a player on twice your wage the following week.
Contract negotiations are a tough game. If you accept the first offer you get you are likely to have done yourself out of the best deal. On the other hand, if you get offered a deal and don’t sign right away that deal will be offered to a more grateful player and you will be left twiddling your thumbs by the time the season kicks off.
I remember my first crack at negotiations in the professional game. I had been performing well at Stirling University and I had managed to catch the eye of a certain Dick Campbell (then in charge of Forfar). He phoned me and offered me a contract – at this stage I had never been paid to play football so I was understandably over the moon. I told him I would consider but needed to speak to my dad first, a man that refers to speaking about money as “talking turkey”. As a shrewd business man, my dad told me to never accept the first offer and ask for a bit more. So I did.
Me: Hi Dick
Dick: Who the f**ks Dick – its gaffer to you ya cyant! Have you made up yer mind?
Me: ohh sorry gaffer… erm I was wondering if I could have a bit more money (sounding like Oliver Twist)
Dick: How many professional games you played son?
Dick: AND YOU THINK YOU’VE EARNT A RIGHT TO AN OPINION! That’s the deal – take it or you can get yersel tae f**k
Less than 24 hours later I signed a contract on the bonnet of the club car. Not many other managers in the game would have the same approach but you can’t argue with the effectiveness of the technique.
There are certain variables that players take into consideration if they are lucky enough to have interest from several clubs. In no particular order…
1. Money on offer
2. Dressing room atmosphere
3. The manager
4. Proximity to house
5. Do they have a pitch like Cowdenbeath?
That is the 5 I weigh up in my mind but Iain “Yano” Campbell has been known to sign for any club that offers him a year supply of fizzy Lucozade and a free cheeseburger card at McDonalds.
It always baffles me when I see average part-time players with agents. If you are below the age of 22 you can be naïve and an agent may help you in these situations. However, I have played with boys older than me that have played part time football for their whole career that have had agents taking 10% of their 75 quid a week wage. It’s usually some chubby Scottish man who fancies himself as a Jorge Mendes or Mino Riaola. By this stage of your part time career you should be aware of the going rate for league 1/2 players. I am convinced it’s just to brag to people that they have an agent.
On a serious note, the players I feel most sorry for are the young players being released by full time clubs. All their life they have had people blowing smoke up their arse and now all of a sudden they are having to fight to stay in the game. While their mates have stuck in at school or finished trade apprenticeships, they have been cleaning boots and cleaning stands for £65 a week with the hope they will one day break into that first team. Few will be lucky to stay full time; some will earn a deal at a part time club but most will fall out the game completely and will now have to play catch up in a world getting increasingly tougher for young folk. Full time clubs need to do more to prepare these boys for the world and if they insist on having them in full time, don’t pay them £65 a week – my aunt spends more than that on her dog.
The overall picture isn’t so bleak – I get paid to do the thing I enjoy more than anything else. If you are lucky to get any kind of professional contract you should cherish it. When I finally hang up the boots (hopefully got a while in me yet), I know I will look back at my experiences in football as some of the best in my life. I will also no longer have an excuse to get out of spending my Saturday afternoon with my other half in B&Q.